Directed by: Wes Craven
Written by: Richard Maxwell, Adam Rodman, inspired by the book by Wade Davis
Cast: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Paul Winfield, Zakes Mokae, Brent Jennings and Michael Gough
Running Time: 94 Minutes
UK Certificate: 18
UK Format: Blu-ray and DVD out now from Fabulous Films
On hearing the word zombie I immediately think of Romero’s Night, Dawn and Day movies, the slow shuffling and mindless remains of the dearly departed. So initially that’s what I thought I would be getting here. I was wrong.
The Serpent and the Rainbow is a movie about voodoo and soul stealing. These zombies are the dead reanimated to do the bidding of the keeper of their soul but they retain their self.
In Haiti, 1978, a man is pronounced dead on his hospital bed. As he is buried we see a tear roll down his cheek yet he doesn’t cry out. Cut to 1985 and the man who was buried has been spotted around the graveyards in Haiti. This is where we meet Dr Dennis Alan. Alan is played by Bill Pullman (Independence Day, The Grudge) whose performance was captivating from start to finish. I was with him all the way through his journey, from scepticism, horror and one particular torture sequence that will make many a man cross his legs.
Alan is charged by his superiors at his pharmaceutical company to find investigate these ‘zombies’. They believe that the dead are not rising but rather a new anaesthetic has been found that can induce a death like state and could be worth millions.
Alan begins his search in the hospitals of Haiti, looking for the once dead man and is aided by Marielle, one of the doctors. Marielle is played by Cathy Tyson (Mona Lisa) who is caught between the world of science and the traditions of her country. Marielle and Alan eventually find the ‘zombie’ who informs them that a powder is used in the ritual and is made by a local. This sets up the rest of the movie as Alan attempts to get hold of this wonder drug. Alan soon becomes the subject of disturbing visions and horrific dreams of which the local police chief, Peytraud, seems to know a great deal about. Peytraud is played creepily by Zakes Mokae (Outbreak, Waterworld). Fighting for the light and Alan’s soul is the local priest, Lucien, played by Paul Winfield (The Terminator, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan).
The Serpent and the Rainbow is based on the book of the same name by real life botanist, Wade Davis. His book charts his trip to Haiti where he witnessed voodoo rituals. The script is written competently and avoids the usual traps of similar horror films. The score, by Brad Fiedel (Terminator 2, Fright Night) is a mix of traditional Haitian music and synth that never feels unwelcome and doesn’t cheapen the scares.
Wes Craven will always be remembered for giving us A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream and The Last House on the Left. From now on I’ll be remembering him for this. A film I absolutely loved from start to finish. Craven directs with restraint, his shots linger and some of the scenes are beautiful to look at. Torch and candlelight are used creatively and the direction is never rushed. The special effects are limited to a few but are handled well and never look dated.
Special Features: Trailer
Movie Rating: 9/10